Sort manufacturing within the younger Soviet Union

Within the communist interval, Soviet shopper items have been restricted each in quantity and with regard to aesthetic choices to select from. It was the identical with typefaces for books, posters, newspapers, and so on. There have been solely few of them: the identical recognizable characters appeared on greyish cinema tickets and from artwork books to magazines for kids. The geometric sans serif typeface that popped up everywhere was Zhurnalnaya roublennaya, as gray and uninteresting as on a regular basis communist life itself.

Beside its personal sort foundries, Tsarist Russia had just a few department workplaces of European ones. Chief amongst them, H. Berthold AG from Germany, acquired a smaller sort foundry in St. Petersburg in 1900, and one other one in Moscow in 1901. At the moment Berthold was one of many greatest sort foundries on the planet, and so its typefaces shortly unfold all through Russia. After the communist revolution the Russian printing trade continued to make use of present fonts, usually from Western firms, however within the 1930s there was an evident have to create the Soviet empire’s personal printing tools and typefaces. This was particularly the case because the Iron Curtain began to descend and the fabric heritage of the earlier imperial time wore out.

The primary Soviet typeface was Literaturnaya (at first named Latinskaya, i.e. “Latin”), primarily based on Berthold’s Lateinisch from 1899. It was launched in 1936, and its lead designer was Anatoly Schukin. In the identical yr, Zhurnalnaya got here out, designed by Nikolay Kudryashov. It was a duplicate of Linotype’s Excelsior (1931), designed by Chauncey H. Griffith. It was a standard observe within the Soviet period to repeat Western merchandise and rename them, and this was evidently additionally true for typefaces.

Zhurnalnaya roublennaya

Zhurnalnaya roublennaya (Журнальная рубленая), “Journal Grotesque” or “Journal Grotesque” in English, was launched in 1947, however at that time it supported solely Cyrillic-alphabet languages. Roublennaya means “chopped” in Russian, and on this case it’s used to imply grotesque, gothic, or sans serif. Soviet sources listing Schukin and his colleagues because the designers of the typeface.

These sources additionally point out the German typeface Erbar-Grotesk as a prototype, created by Jakob Erbar for the Ludwig & Mayer foundry in 1922. It was very fashionable in Europe in the course of the 1920s and 1930s. Its geometrically-shaped, rounded characters and sober look match properly into the interval’s visible picture. These days, Erbar is barely hardly ever getting used. Maybe the reason being Erbar’s absence within the Letraset library within the 1970s, or in the course of the early digital period of the 1990s. Though the colour of Erbar in physique copy is much like Roublennaya’s, the microshapes of the letters will not be the identical. Erbar is simply too fancy to be the only real father of Zhurnalnaya roublennaya.

The yr 1947 was an distinctive time to launch a typeface in Russia. The design course of had began earlier than WWII and was completed very shortly after — two years isn’t a very long time after preventing a struggle of near-total destruction. However the Soviet Union was on the winner’s facet and eliminated a number of of Germany’s metallic and machine enterprises. These began a brand new life in Soviet cities. For instance, the Opel automobile manufacturing unit’s manufacturing was continued in Moscow, and the Opel Kadett was renamed the Moskvitsch. Printing tools and fonts have been additionally part of the metallic and machine trade. On the face of it, the typeface’s launch appears to suit this straightforward sample of a direct copy. However its precise historical past is extra difficult.

Modernist typefaces within the 1920s and 1930s

When Bauhaus members mentioned the that means and look of typefaces, they raised the query of type. Eliminating decoration additionally meant starting a seek for important shapes of letters. The sq., circle, and triangle have been the geometrical figures that have been accepted by modernists as potential shapes of characters. Though the important geometry of sort didn’t attain the general public on the time, it drove sort foundries to provoke their very own investigations.

One results of that was Berthold-Grotesk, which got here out in 1928. The sort foundry Berthold’s typefaces have been additionally produced by the St. Petersburg department workplace and stayed in use after the Communist revolution.

One other typeface bearing the identical early modernist feeling is Super-Grotesk, designed by Arno Drescher in 1932 for Schriftguss AG in Dresden. Schriftguss, which was situated in Jap Germany, was made part of VEB Typoart in 1951. With Typoart as the one sort foundry within the nation after that, Tremendous-Grotesk grew to become the principle sans serif typeface of the GDR. In some methods, it’s similar to Zhurnalnaya roublennaya. It shares its proletarian aesthetics and austere picture, and the identical huge use in every single place within the nation as a consequence of a scarcity of alternate options. Shy and gray, overused and underestimated, it grew to become the visible equal of communist Germany. It fell into oblivion in the course of the first decade of democracy after the reunification of Germany. However ten years later a wave of Ostalgie arrived, and younger typographers began to digitize a number of fonts that had been in use within the GDR, together with Tremendous-Grotesk.

In evaluating Zhurnalnaya roublennaya with the above-mentioned typefaces, it’s evident that there are loads of similarities. The shapes of ‘a, s, R, and S’ are most alike, however the common look of the typefaces are additionally comparable. Not one of the typefaces might be seen as a direct prototype for Zhurnalnaya, although.

Zhurnalnaya roublennaya as a poor man’s Futura

A model of Zhurnalnaya roublennaya supporting Latin-alphabet languages was launched in 1962, and have become the frequent sans serif in Estonian printing workplaces for the subsequent 30 years. It was a newcomer within the Soviet typeface library of Estonia, however primarily, there was merely no selection: the opposite accessible sans serif for machine typesetting was Gazetnaya, a typeface primarily based on Franklin Gothic Additional Condensed, which was not appropriate for longer textual content setting. Subsequently Roublennaya was largely used pragmatically, with out particular aesthetic intention.

Within the Soviet-period design journal Kunst ja Kodu (“Artwork and Residence”) for instance, the textual content was set in Roublennaya, however the headlines have been in hand-lettered Futura. That was the actual typeface within the designers’ minds after they designed the format of the pages. Roublennaya was used within the absence of the specified font, as a poor man’s Futura.

Jüri Kaarma was one of many few graphic designers who used Roublennaya deliberately. He designed the journal Loomingu Raamatukogu (“Looming’s Library”) and used the typeface on black-and-white covers from 1980–1983. Kaarma trusted the important high quality of a poorly-made Soviet typeface and gave it the principle function. To supply extra highly effective outcomes, Kaarma took the photoset negatives and used the characters outsized, typically masking the whole cowl. By this course of the standard of the letter contours deteriorated, and this gave an industrial look to the characters.

One other outstanding use of Zhurnalnaya roublennaya dates to 1978, when the identical Jüri Kaarma designed Juhan Viiding’s poetry e book, Ma olin Jüri Üdi (“I used to be Jüri Üdi”). The modest publication was set within the on a regular basis Soviet typeface, with none extra illustrative parts. Zhurnalnaya roublennaya grew to become the main target of the cruel format and described, with intense energy, the silent nightmare of the poet’s childhood years: the Stalinist fifties.

One other attention-grabbing use is Arhitektid Arhitektuurist (“Architects’ Structure”). It was designed by Leonhard Lapin and printed in 1989. It makes use of scaled up sort on a number of spreads. The ensuing tough outlines have been then, in some locations, manually cleaned up. The stark colour distinction drives the creative layouts. Giant and small sort is ready in two totally different variations of the identical sort, with the lowercase ‘a’ and the apexes of ‘A, M, N, W’ being the simplest characters to tell apart the 2.

Zhurnalnaya roublennaya and the digital age

At first of the 1990s, when the digital period started, Zhurnalnaya roublennaya fell into obscurity. The Russian sort foundry ParaGraph digitized it as early as 1991, however the typeface’s drawing high quality was very dangerous. That digital model was known as Journal Sans. In 2014 the foundry, now often called ParaType, launched each an up to date model and a reinterpretation named Journal Sans New. The latter is a really free tackle the unique design, with parts similar to a humanist italic and an inline style.

The dearth of a correctly made digital model of Zhurnalnaya roublennaya was noticeable in 2007, when the artist Marko Mäetamm exhibited his works on the Venice Biennale. Estonian designer Indrek Sirkel, who was designing the artist’s catalog, was looking for the visible expression of Mäetamm’s bitter, private, and childhood-reflecting artwork. Sirkel selected Roublennaya, the typeface of his technology’s alphabet e book Karu-aabits (“Teddy bear’s ABC”). One other Estonian ABC e book utilizing the identical typeface is Abikooli Aabits, proven above.

As no correct digital model of Roublennaya was accessible, he used Erbar as a substitute, however in 2009, he helped begin a brand new digitization course of by his colleague Urs Lehni on the Bern University of the Arts. Sirkel despatched examples of the typeface to Switzerland, and the then-students Reto Moser and Tobias Rechsteiner created two fonts of the common weight below the names Eesti Textual content and Eesti Show. These are among the samples they have been working from.

Within the six years since, Moser has taken to designing what has now turn out to be GT Eesti. GT Eesti Text has pointed apexes on ‘A, V, W, M, N and Z’, in contrast to GT Eesti Display. In Soviet specimen books, two cuts are proven as properly: one for small makes use of, and one other for bigger makes use of. That’s additionally why GT Eesti Textual content sports activities robust ink-traps. The incisions into the lettershapes, wherever two strains meet, assist the letters look the proper manner at smaller sizes, in print and on display. All types helps each Latin and Cyrillic Prolonged languages, together with Bulgarian alternates.

The revival of Zhurnalnaya roublennaya is logical and the zeitgeist welcomed the rebirth of this visible phenomenon. It’s ironic German-prototyped, Russian-manufactured typeface would reappear after being picked up by Swiss designers — who renamed it Eesti.


This text was written by Ivar Sakk, Professor for graphic design at EKA in Tallinn, Estonia, and edited by Thierry Blancpain of Grilli Type. An earlier model was printed in problem 21 of Kunstiteaduslikke Uurimusi — Studies on Art and Architecture, the journal of the Estonian Society of Artwork Historians (pdfs: Estonian with images, English translation). Grilli Sort wish to thank Ivar for being an incredible good friend and assist to us once we have been making an attempt to know the historical past of this typeface, in addition to for being an incredible host once we visited Tallinn in February 2015.

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